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IFFBoston 2009 – Day Three – Reality Cracked

500 Days of Summer takes an unusual approach to a love story in that it isn’t one – and it tells you so up front.  What it is instead is an honest look at the course of a relationship when only seen from one person’s point of view, however skewed that might be.  From heart-warmingly fun and flirty, to heart-crushingly panicked and confused, anyone who has been half of a couple will relive the emotions of first dates and first fights and much of what lies between the two - and perhaps what comes after.

Charismatic boy-next-door Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), along with the audience,  can’t help but fall for enchanting Summer (Zooey Deschanel), but director Mark Webb keeps the film from being sickly-sweet – except when it’s supposed to be.  Helped by a witty script and pitch-perfect delivery by the cast, Webb takes us along for a time-slipping ride until finally, contentedly, we are ready to move forward with hope when life’s seasons change.

In contrast to 500 Days of Summer’s Tom, Big Fan’s everyman, Paul (Patton Oswalt), is unlikely to ever meet his own “Summer”.  Instead, what Paul has in his life is a lonely job as an evening-shift parking garage attendant, his love of the New York Giants, and his persona as a regular caller to a late-night sports radio show.

Supported by his best buddy Sal (Kevin Corrigan), Paul fancies himself one of the Giants’ most ardent fans and staunchest defenders.  When serendipity leads to a chance encounter with his favorite player, Paul’s fantasy world meets reality.  As in most such cases, reality comes with a few warts, at best.

What follows leaves Paul caught between what’s best for him and what’s best for the team he loves. Ultimately, he needs to find a way to reconcile being both a fan and a man while maintaining his integrity as either.

Midnight movie Pontypool was chosen to be part of the festival within the festival, IFFBoston After Dark.  It is a horror film that was engrossing while on screen and continued to grow on me after the screening was over. 

Set primarily in a radio studio, it's as if someone filmed the original War of the Worlds broadcast, but the Mercury players were as much in the dark as the listening audience.  The result is evocative of classic Hitchcock, Andromeda Strain, and Night of the Living Dead.  Inexorably creepy and fearfully contagious, but it's all in your head.

Director Bruce McDonald and his small, talented cast deliver a film that, on merit, should be destined for many a midnight screening in the future.

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